AVI Foodsystems, Inc. will be McDaniel College’s new dining services provider starting Jan. 6, 2019.
The decision, delivered to the campus community in a Dec. 3 email, was made after a student-staff committee spent the fall semester narrowing down the search from six to four and, finally, two providers this past month.
“McDaniel College is pleased to announce that AVI Foodsystems, Inc. has been selected as the College’s new food service provider,” the email read. “This decision was reached after a thorough selection process that took place throughout the fall semester with input gathered by on the on-campus food service committee and students.”
AVI serves other higher ed institutions such as Wofford College in South Carolina and The Juilliard School in New York. McDaniel is the first college in the mid-Atlantic region to work with the company.
“We’re smack dab in the middle [of AVI’s other schools],” said Acting Dean of Students Liz Towle. “That’s why they were pretty excited about us.”
Sodexo, the College’s current provider, was announced as no longer in the running in an email to the College community on Nov. 16.
“The College has had a longstanding relationship with Sodexo and has appreciated their commitment to serving our campus community,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Tom Phizacklea wrote in the email.
According to Phizacklea, the AVI contract is for 10 years, though it can be terminated with notice by either party. AVI will be providing $200,00 in equipment like smokers and roasters to be able to supply the type of food that they are known for, he said.
“AVI Fresh will be bringing an entirely new fresh approach,” Regional Director Daniel Palombo said in a Dec. 7 email to the Free Press. “Our plan is focused on the highest quality wholesome ingredients, local sourcing, and a customized approach for McDaniel. Look for a refreshed menu that will still include many of the favorites of the McDaniel community.”
AVI will also aim to digitally connect with students — the company plans to use technology such as additional T.V. screens in Englar Dining Hall and an app to provide the student body with their food’s nutritional information.
“We’re here to serve the students and McDaniel community,” Palombo said. “We’ll be incorporating a variety of events to gather feedback and ensure that we’re providing the outstanding culinary program that is deserved on your campus.”
Palombo detailed engaged and accessible managers and social media platforms which include a “text-the-manager” program to provide feedback.
AVI has agreed to a 90-day probationary period to keep on any hourly food service employee who desires to stay at McDaniel, subject to their contract, the Dec. 3 email said.
In that email, AVI Executive Vice President Ernie D. Minor provided a statement about the new partnership with the College.
“Over the course of the next semester, we will be introducing a number of new offerings and enhancements to the dining program to highlight our fresh, from-scratch approach. Such items include roasting and smoking deli meats in-house and making pizza dough, soups, stocks, and sauces from scratch. We will also begin featuring local Furnace Hills Coffee Company coffee. AVI looks forward to working with McDaniel students to further enhance the dining program,” it read.
“They’ll do more cooking in front of us,” said Towle.
Furnace Hills Coffee will be available in the dining hall and through catering, according to Palombo.
AVI will focus on the dining hall, Caseys’ Corner, and Pub in the spring.
In Englar Dining Hall, AVI will introduce Clarity, their allergen-sensitive station.
“This designated station in Englar will feature delicious selections absent of the eight major allergens,” Palomno said. “If students have any questions or requests regarding a dietary preference or allergen, we invite them to speak directly with our manager.”
Ideas for Pub include a half-burger-joint half-rotating-specials setup. The rotating specials will change monthly, featuring different foods such as Mexican-inspired cuisine and quinoa dishes.
“Over the summer of 2019,” Palombo said, “we have exciting plans we’re working on for the Pub which may include a nationally-recognized brand.”
AVI also proposed the introduction of pop-up food stations: students would be able to swipe their McDaniel 1Card at a cart temporarily located at a certain spot on campus and walk away with a specialty food item.
Plans for Klitzberg Pavilion, however, have not been revealed.
“There may not be any activity in the former Vocelli space in the beginning,” Phizacklea said.
“Discussions will be held with the campus community on what will be best for this space in the future. There are no plans for concept implementation for the spring 2019 term,” Palombo said.
Meal plans will not change for the spring as their terms or costs are not set by McDaniel’s food service provider.
A Dec. 11 email informed students that both Pub and Caseys’ Corner would be closed for the entirety of Jan Term and reopen Jan. 28.